West Germanic monosyllabic lengthening and Gothic breaking as partially Proto-Germanic developments
The evidence of pronominal place adverbs ‘here’, ‘where’ and ‘there’
The paper deals with two Germanic sound changes which are traditionally believed to postdate the disintegration of the Proto-Germanic parent language. The lengthening in several monosyllables, attested in West Germanic languages, is usually believed to be an innovation of this branch. The so-called Gothic breaking is similarly thought of as belonging exclusively to East Germanic. The paper shows that there is evidence suggesting a Proto-Germanic age for parts of both sound changes, in particular for a lengthening in monosyllabic words ending in PGmc *-r and for a lowering of PGmc *i if followed by *r. Proto-Germanic possessed at least three pronoun-based place adverbs formed with PGmc *-r, cf. Goth ƕar ‘where’ from ƕa- ‘what’, þar ‘there’ from þa- ‘that’ and hēr ‘here’ from hi- ‘this here’. The vocalism of these adverbs did not match that of the corresponding pronouns on two points. First, the vowels of the adverbs were probably long. Second, the close PGmc *ẹ̄ (Goth ē, OHG ia) of ‘here’ did not match PGmc *i in the corresponding pronoun. The paper assumes that the long vowels of the place adverbs emerged by a lengthening of etymologically short vowels in monosyllablic words ending in PGmc *-r. The timbre difference between PGmc *ẹ̄ in ‘here’ and PGmc *i in the corresponding pronoun for ‘this here’ is accounted for by a lowering of PGmc *i before *r. Both postulated developments must have been operating already in Proto-Germanic times but the lowering must have chronologically preceded the lengthening. The paper introduces the data supporting the assumptions made and discusses the apparent counterevidence.
Keywords: historical phonology, Proto-Germanic, West Germanic, Gothic, place adverbs
Published online: 28 September 2017
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